Nepal has signed a memorandum of cooperation to send to Japan "specified skilled" workers for the first time.

The broad framework agreement, signed in Kathmandu on Monday by Japanese Ambassador Masamichi Saigo and a Nepalese government representative, opens the door to Nepalese blue-collar workers getting jobs in Japan based on the government-to-government recruitment model.

The agreement takes effect April 1.

"The actual flow of workers from Nepal to Japan will take time because different bilateral mechanisms need to be set up to ensure that only those who meet employment criteria reach Japan," said Narayan Regmi, spokesman at Nepal's Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security.

The ministry will set up a body that will facilitate the recruitment process, he added.

The Japanese government decided in December to recruit 345,000 foreign workers in five years from nine countries, including Nepal, to address the rapidly depleting and aging workforce.

Nepal proposed to Japan setting up a government-to-government recruitment mechanism to prevent recruitment agencies in Nepal from duping workers.

A similar mechanism set up with South Korea to send Nepali workers under the Employment Permit System has been successful in protecting workers.

Scores of cases in which workers were fleeced by recruitment agencies in Nepal or exploited by employers in job destinations such as Qatar and Malaysia are reported every year.

Tens of thousands of Nepalese head to other countries for work every year. An estimated 4 million work abroad.

Over two decades of political turmoil that started in 1996 when former rebel Maoists started a 10-year-long armed insurgency dried up investment and jobs in Nepal.